After much wait, “In Rainbows” is now playing on my computer as I type. There’s a feeling of ambivalence for me here. The problem, for me, is that in some parts, Radiohead sounds even… well… slightly generic. Recalling hints of Muse and other contemporaries in parts. Now, this is itself is not a harsh denigration, but for a band such as Radiohead? Generic should NEVER even enter the mind.
In my opinion, the album doesn’t open all that strongly. In fact, I find myself constantly skipping through “15 Steps” and “Bodysnatchers” both. Surprisingly, it’s not until the seemingly ‘disconnected’ “Nude” that I actually feel the band is reaching out and connecting, and not just going through the paces.
The album begins to pick up from the second half of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”, but it is really with “All I Need” that the band explodes into greatness. Recalling cast shades of their… well, newness, experimentation, it grips you and refuses to let you go. The crescendo, roughly 3 minutes in, is beautiful in its simplicity. The brief “Faust Arp” continues this buoy, before leading into “Reckoner”, with it’s odd shades of Jon Frusciantesque guitars.
“House of Cards”, despite the desperately pop-filled line of “I don’t wanna be your friend/I just wanna be your lover” is certainly one of the stronger songs on the album.
With “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”, it becomes clear what Yorke and co. are doing; they been giving us what we didn’t know we wanted. As much as some may hanker for the sounds of 1995 “The Bends”, it is clear with this song that prog-rock is clearly the camp Radiohead belongs to now.
The album closes… strongly… on the haunting videotape, with its achingly beautiful line “You are my centre, when I spin away… out of control”.
All in all, despite my misgivings, I have the feeling that “In Rainbows” is an album that will grow on the listener after time. And, so often, that has been the case with Radiohead in the past. Pioneers have to deal with strange looks from infidels sometimes.